The Star-Herald

ReEnergy plant fire in Fort Fairfield under investigation

FORT FAIRFIELD, Maine — ReEnergy officials are investigating the cause of a fire at the Fort Fairfield biomass plant on Saturday and are expecting the facility to be operating again Wednesday.

Employees at the Fort Fairfield ReEnergy plant reported a fire at 3:15 a.m. Saturday March 17, according to a ReEnergy press release from communications director Sarah Boggess.

The Fort Fairfield Fire Department extinguished the fire and multiple hot spots with aid from the Presque Isle, Caribou and Limestone fire departments, and all fire crews had left the scene by 8:30 a.m. Boggess said.

Boggess did not say where the fire occurred but said that no one was injured and no evacuation was necessary. The company is now investigating the fire and working to get the plant operating again.

“We will conduct a full investigation into the incident, inspecting the site of the fire and our processes, and will make repairs and operational adjustments if any are deemed appropriate,” said James White, chief operating officer of ReEnergy’s energy division, in a statement.

As of Monday, ReEnergy employees were assessing conditions at the plant and working to restore operations, Boggess said. The facility is accepting biomass deliveries and expects to have operations running again Wednesday morning, Boggess said.

The ReEnergy plant in Fort Fairfield is one of four ReEnergy biomass electricity plants in Maine that buy wood chips and residues from loggers and lumber mills. The other three are located in Ashland, Livermore Falls and Stratton. The four ReEnergy plants generate enough electricity combined to power about 154,000 average homes and employ about 100 people directly.

However, the biomass plants have been struggling due to factors, including cheap natural gas and increasing power transmission costs, and ReEnergy officials are currently in the midst of a process to find additional manufacturing or related businesses to partner with their electricity plants.

Late last year, ReEnergy informed the operator of the electric grid in Aroostook and Washington counties that the Ashland and Fort Fairfield facilities could close in September 2018 if they don’t get additional revenue sources.

Last October, ReEnergy issued a request for proposals seeking businesses that would use excess heat, hot water and affordable electricity from one of ReEnergy’s Maine biomass plants. The company is expected to announce any decision on the bids in the spring.

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